Completion Donald Trump inciting riots at the Capitol in 2021, Peter Meijer He was described as “unfit for office.” And when Meijer cast one of only ten Republican votes to impeach the former president in the House of Representatives that year, he warned that more political violence could follow—thanks to the bloodlessness of some in his own party. “Instead of telling the American people and their supporters what they need to hear, we have more politicians telling them what they want to hear,” the former Michigan congressman said at the time. “That kind of reactive leadership is not going to make the Republican Party a party that can be trusted to govern this country again, and we need to fix it.”
Two years and a few changes later, Meijer did a 180; in interviews since entering the race for an open Senate seat in Michigan, he has been said to favor Trump, suggests earlier this month that the former president was more honest than his successor. And, in an interview with Politico Monday, the former lawmaker acknowledged that he would vote for the person he once voted to impeach if the Republican front-runner becomes the GOP nominee, as he likely will.
“My overall goal is to create Joe Biden a one-term president,” Meijer told Politico’s Adam Wren. “I think that the economic damage that he has done and will continue to do will have far more negative consequences on the country than a second non-consecutive Trump administration.”
It’s a wild calculation, given the bare-bones authoritarianism Trump wants to pursue if he returns to office. It speaks to the extremism at the heart of the contemporary GOP: Is this really what passed REASONABLE in the Republican Party today?
Of course, Meijer may have other considerations in mind beyond principles. For one, there are the political dynamics of a GOP primary, where there may not be much appetite for his more modest voting record, and loyalty to Trump remains the price of admission. For another, there’s more: Meijer fell short of a right-wing primary challenge last year that Democrats mounted as part of a controversial strategy to win over more vulnerable opponents. It works. Democrat Hillary Scholten lost to far-right Republicans John Gibbs to turn the chair. Meijer was furious—and stayed that way. “Right now, I’m just in the ‘pox on all houses’ mentality,'” he told Politico, expressing “the failure of the cynical calculation that I see on the Democratic side.”
But with Trump softening and drawing parallels between the former president and the current one, Meijer confirmed the point of the Democratic strategists, who, in 2022, argued that “regardless of the Republican nominee, they will be forced to act. where their base is,” said the Democratic consultant Jared Leopold put it on Vox at the time.
Meijer’s Senate bid appears to be in play, though he tried to spin his resignation as an expression of conviction. “I think a lot of the ways he’s shaken up the political establishment is a net positive,” Meijer said of Trump. “Like, he was shaking a lot. After the election, he somewhat lost control of where the trends were going. But that doesn’t mean in any way, shape, or form that I think we need to go back to the pre-Trump moment.